A Failed Book

I have been unhappy with Kringle on Fire since the first draft. This is not usual for me, as I love my first drafts with the drunken happiness of accomplishment. I have to work to be critical in the edits.

But I didn’t experience that with Kringle on Fire. It felt flat. It felt trivial. It felt wooden. It felt all the things you don’t want to see in a romance novel. I thought I was missing something until I started writing again on Avatar of the Maker and it sparkled. I had characters who responded to each other and action that flowed. I liked the characters. I felt like I wanted to write it (although I had taken a break from it to write the Kringle novel.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I let Richard read through it to see what was wrong, and he picked up on the same thing. The book just didn’t sparkle.

What happened to this book? I think it was a combination of factors that were bound to doom it. First off, the female main character is a 22-year-old single mother to a two-year-old. Given that, she needs to be very cautious about exposing her son to potential male partners so as not to confuse him with father figures. (Staying the night is a definite no-no.) So that part of the relationship has to go slowly. It’s a Christmas season instalove novel, which is the defining factor of the entire series. Instalove is the polar opposite of cautious. This puts me into the situation of either putting the son in an unhealthy place or stretching out the action for longer.

There may be a way out, but I don’t know if I want to take it. I have written four Kringle novels, and I think that may be enough if the muse leads me this badly astray. I would be better served by finishing Avatar of the Maker and the other novel I have started. I feel guilty about abandoning a novel, but the Kringle book does not speak to me.

Maybe later.

Technology Hates Me

I have so many things I need to do today — put up a TikTok video, insert some front and back matter into the latest book, and tweak the cover for the same novel (which will be a Christmas novel, It Takes Two to Kringle, out October 1).

But technology hates me today:

  • Atticus (a book formatting app) keeps stalling out.
  • Atticus also is missing its back matter section so I can’t put in an afterword, acknowledgements, or disclaimers in my novel.
  • Photoshop (where I design my covers) won’t let me copy and paste a picture.
  • Crazy Video Maker will not let me stretch out the time pictures stay on screen for as long as I need them to.
  • ProWritingAid thinks I am making run-on sentences. (I am not).

At least WordPress is not throwing hitches in my writing.

And, to be honest, Photoshop functioned well when I figured out I used the wrong command.

But the level of frustration! I had hoped to have my book ready on Amazon (just in case) this weekend, and that will not happen. I hate being derailed.

Oh, well, need to find something to keep me occupied.

Stopping in the Middle

When you’re unhappy with your first draft

The good news is that I have been writing more on my latest novel, which makes me very happy.

The bad news is that I’m dissatisfied with what I have written. Such is the lot of writers.

Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels.com

Why am I dissatisfied? (This should be cathartic!):

  • Reveal of Leah’s talent too quick
  • Not enough of the relationship between the main characters
  • Overall, unremittingly dreary

The bones of the story seem sound, but some of the surrounding structures (the muscles?) aren’t holding up the promise of the story.

What to do now

Many writers at this point would tell one to keep plowing through and wait to revise until one has completed the first draft. I am ignoring this advice.

I am distracted by what is missing in my characters. I am bummed out with a story without laughter in-between the heavy stuff (and there’s plenty of heavy stuff in this one). If one’s feelings about the content impede the writing, I think rewriting those so many chapters is not only wise but necessary.

This means my progress will not be going forward, but rippling outward. I can accept this.

In the meantime, I’m trying to promote my work. It’s hard for me because I’m not the sort of person who feels comfortable with self-promotion. But here is my author’s website, which has a blog post about all the writing I have out there. Here’s the page.

Happy reading!


I edited yesterday!

I looked at the chapters so far for unknown title (formerly God’s Seeds) through ProWritingAid to acquaint myself with what I’d already written and to fix my idiosyncratic style before proceeding.

It went well. I got rid of all of those unusual dialog tags I excel at. The problem is, I don’t know where to do from there. It’s not like I’m pantsing, where I am making things up as I go along. No, I have an outline, but it’s so long since I’ve touched it I don’t know where to go with it.

I need my assistant (husband Richard) to help me sort this. But he’s sacked out on the bed.


Difficult Conversation


I have to have a difficult conversation with someone later today. I’m stewing over it, much more than I would like to. It’s getting in the way of my usual mood of calm anticipation. I’m ruminating about it. I keep rehearsing the worst case scenario.

I have to clear this, because it’s getting in the way of teaching. It’s getting in the way of enjoying life.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What to do

There are a few things I can do about this disturbance. One is doing a cognitive exercise, contradicting all the surmises I have about how the conversation is going to go. Another is mindfulness and focusing my attention to the present. Yet another is imagining that the conversation goes well, but for me this would lead to more rumination.

Right now I’m turning my attention outward listening to the Cowboy Bebop (original version) soundtrack. It’s amazing blues, showing off Yoko Kanno’s talent at its best. I’m waiting for the live action soundtrack to complete my auditory pleasure. Later I may have to do a cognitive, perhaps before my morning class, because I want to be my best for my classes.

In the End

In the end, this is a little thing in life, especially if the conversation is handled well with no blaming and empathetic listening. And in the meantime, I take care of myself so class (and my life) goes well.

Staring It In the Face

Writers’ angst

I am not as popular as I thought I would be as a writer. Which means that my rank under Amazon’s system is close to the bottom. I don’t know if anyone has read my latest, Kringle in the Night, although I will also in my defense say it’s only been live for a week.

Promotion woes

I don’t know how to promote. I mean, I do, but not in a way where people actually pay attention. Every day? I can’t do that; my conscience won’t subject people to that. Every few days? I think I can do that, and it’s about time for me to do that. In the newsletter? I’ve got to write that today, don’t I?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Writing and my future

I’m torn between quitting writing, writing for myself, and doing this same path with writing and promotion. I think if I get some positive outcomes I can certainly continue with the latter, but I need some good words to continue. Sorry for the bummer, but this is where I am at the moment.

Send good words and thoughts here!

Dealing with the Meltdown

I had a meltdown yesterday

I had a frustrating day yesterday. Computing problems, a rejection, the realization that I have to do yet another edit on probably more than one thing. I admit, I had a high-stress meltdown. My husband watched helplessly as I put myself down, ranted at the computer, and became a frantic mess.

I pride myself on my stress tolerance, because I usually feel like I’m in control. I am, to a large extent, in control. That’s the way I see the world. And if I’m in control, then I can fix things. I wasn’t in control yesterday.

And I hated it.

Locus of control and its limitations

The state of feeling in control of one’s destiny is called internal locus of control. It’s a psychological term. The opposite of this is external locus of control, where one feels destiny, or fate, or God, or just bad luck rules the outcome of things.

Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

Completion of goals is best when one has internal locus of control. That makes sense, because if one doesn’t feel in charge of their own destiny, why would they plan anything?

Entry-level psychology classes tend to simplify as “internal good, external bad”. But what about the cases where we don’t have control — the buggy websites, the computer crashes, the barfing cat, the husband falling down the stairs? (This literally was my yesterday).

An alternative when things go sour

This is where the Serenity Prayer comes in.

I tend to be Spiritual But Not Religious, but I appreciate the role of ritual. The Serenity Prayer, which may or may not have been written by Reinhold Neibuhr, is as much a mantra as a prayer. I prefer the short version, because the long version loses its mantra power:

God, grant me the serenity/to accept the things I cannot change/the courage to change the things I can/and the wisdom to know the difference.

I could have used this yesterday in the midst of my meltdown. Perhaps I would have yelled at my computer screen less (fat chance), or put myself down less. Maybe I would have performed better on my tasks. Maybe — no. I have no control over the past, so might as well not dwell in it.

To the reader

Have any of you had a meltdown recently? How did you deal with it?

I see the light at the end of the edit!

I am done with the revision of Gaia’s Hands! I think I finally have it in a place where I like it, although it definitely needs some revision on the revision as any good novel would.

This is momentous, because Gaia’s Hands is the first novel I ever wrote.

To give you some background — I had a dream. And it was a pretty raunchy dream, raunchier than the book finally ended up, but it was also romantic. So I kept interrogating the dream, and particularly its characters, and it kept developing further.

I kept writing excerpts of the dream and its spun gossamer threads, and I kept making my husband read them. (My husband is very patient.) After maybe a half-dozen of these, Richard said, “If you’re going to write all these stories on the same topic, you might as well write a novel.”

Photo by Olenka Sergienko on Pexels.com

“I can’t write a novel!” I squeaked. “It’s too long! I don’t know how to write plots!”

“Try,” he said.

So I wrote the first draft, and didn’t like it. I then wrote several other drafts, adding voiceovers and deleting them, adding a couple new characters, deleting them, turning it into a novella, giving up on that. and leaving the story in the metaphorical drawer for a while only to start again. Toward the end of the process, I handed it off to a writing coach, who pointed out that there were so many editing errors from having gone through it so many times my eyes bled, She also informed me that Gaia’s Hands was, in fact, a romance novel and I should emphasize that.

This was a revelation. I knew there was a romance involved, but there was also this fantasy element of Jeanne’s talent and Josh’s visions and the build toward a miracle at the end. Primary to the book, however, was Josh and Jeanne’s unorthodox relationship with its age difference.

So I emphasized that romance, not forgetting the fantasy elements, but using the romance as the backbone of the story. Jeanne and Josh, it turns out, make a great couple. They fight and break up in a totally believable style, and come back to each other within a week just as believably. And they make sense as the unprepared wielders of talents that come from — Japanese spirits? Gaia?

I think I’m happy with Gaia’s Hands. I think.

The Frustration of Teaching under COVID.

Here’s a typical class session under COVID:

I get to the class a few minutes early to set up for class. This requires a computer, a USB camera and area microphone that I’ve brought to class. Add in an HDMI cable to the projection unit, and I’m hooked up. My computer screen is now projected onto the screen up front.

I open up Zoom and see my face projected upon the big screen. Urgk. I don’t like looking at myself larger than life. I twiddle with the camera so it’s at the right angle — it’s never at the right angle; due to the camera’s height limitations it will always be looking up my neck.

The whiteboard behind me is useless, because it projects backward to the Zoom students. Moving around while teaching (my favored style) is useless because then I will disappear from sight. Every visual must be from the computer because it must be visible both for the in-class students and the online students. Luckily, Zoom allows for screen-share, although that can get awkward at times with clicking it on and off and on again to see new documents and windows.

I pull up a few windows — the first with the seating chart, which will be visible when students come in. Only half the class meets at a time due to COVID distancing, and we need a static seating chart for COVID contact tracking at the University. Our class still is not distanced enough, so we wear masks at all times. 

Students start trickling in through the door, so I point out the seating chart so they find their right chairs. Some students sit down without consulting the seating chart, so I need to explain to those students we have a seating chart. On the computer, my Zoom students start to fill up in the waiting room. I message them, letting them know that they need to keep their video on during class. If last week’s introductory session is any indication, at least one will not. Then I let them in.

Teaching is a challenge, because two-thirds of my class sit in desks in front of me watching the screen, which is the Zoom display with a shared document as the current focus — a PowerPoint screen, a document, etc. One-third of my class views remotely using Zoom. It’s hard teaching to both these classes, and I spend too much of my time yelling “Can you hear me?” to the Zoom people, who are silent and not sharing in class work. It’s insanely hard for me to pay attention to two different classrooms at the same time. 

After an unsatisfying class period where I feel I have done twice the work with half the results, I wipe down all the seats and tables with disinfectant, and I wait till the next class shows up and do it all over again.

What do I do now?

“I’m just not as compelled by your story as I would like.”

This pretty much summarizes the rejections I have gotten lately, and I wish I could interpret the message so I can improve my books. What does this mean? What would it take to be compelling? 

I’m frustrated and don’t know what to do at this point. I don’t know whether it’s just their taste or the popularity of my current memes or my writing. 

I don’t know where I can send my work for review because my work has already been through a developmental editor and beta readers. Is there a type of editor for “not compelling enough”?

I don’t mind criticism is there’s an idea of how to remedy. I have nothing to go on here. 

Any ideas, readers?